Calls for more cancer research funding as professor warns world is at 'tipping point'

Two women sat on a bench in a park
Friends Dani and Vikki discovered they both had the faulty gene known as BRCA which increases the risk of cancer. Credit: ITV Channel

Two women from Guernsey are calling for urgent investments in cancer research after discovering they share the same faulty gene.

Mutations in the BRCA gene dramatically increase the chance of people developing breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancers - up to 90% in some cases.

It is estimated that one in every 400 people has the faulty gene, meaning cells can grow uncontrollably.

Dani Barnett had a double mastectomy and her ovaries were removed to lower her risk after discovering she has the faulty gene.

She says: "I had an 80% chance of developing breast cancer which is incredibly scary at 28 and through research they showed that if you had a double mastectomy, that lowered your chances to 3%.

"To put it into perspective, your average woman has a 13% chance so I would be better than your average human after having the double mastectomy."

Vikki Hammond also has the faulty gene and was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2021.

She explains her journey: "Mine started 30 years ago when a relative of mine got diagnosed with breast cancer. She got picked up by the cancer research team in Southampton and that's when they started looking at how genetics have an impact on cancer, so as a family we got tested.

"If it wasn't for her and us getting tested I wouldn't know we were carriers."

The chance of people with a faulty BRCA gene developing certain cancers is much higher. Credit: Ovarian Cancer Action

Cancer Research UK pioneered international studies 30 years ago into the BRCA gene that has enabled women with a family history like Vikki to check their level of risk and potentially take steps to prevent breast cancer.

Vikki and Dani are sharing their stories to raise awareness of a major national campaign by the charity that is urging philanthropists to donate so further progress can be made in the fight against cancer.

The organisation is aiming to raise £400 million, making it the largest-ever fundraising drive of its type.

The charity estimates more than 100,000 people across the British Isles could be saved over the next 20 years if the number of cancer deaths is lowered by 15% by 2040.

Average number of cancer deaths each year across the Channel Islands:

Professor Gareth Griffiths, Director of Southampton's Clinical Trial Unit which Cancer Research UK funds, joined other leading scientists to write an open letter stating the world is at a "tipping point".

He explains: "We're standing on the brink of discoveries like new blood tests that could detect cancer at an earlier stage, and algorithms that could predict someone’s cancer risk and stop it from developing in the first place.

"What we want to move from is the situation that individuals get early cancer but have no symptoms and the first time they come to the hospital is when they get certain symptoms.

"They could be physical like blood or pain and at that point, we're finding out the cancer is quite advanced and spread throughout the body as the cancer is a lot harder to treat at that stage."